Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Tim Hill

Stars: James Marsden, Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins, voices of Russell Brand, Hugh Laurie, Hank Azaria.

We’ve had Tim Allen play a replacement for Santa Claus, and recently we had Dwayne Johnson play a temporary replacement for the tooth fairy. The latest fantasy character to get a makeover is the Easter Bunny. The family friendly Hop is a clever mix of live action and CGI created animation and again the cartoon characters are seamlessly integrated. Director Tim Hill, who previously gave us a similar hybrid of live action and animation with Garfield 2 and Alvin And The Chipmunks handles the material here effectively enough.

EB (voiced by Russell Brand) is the teenage son of the Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Laurie) and is destined to take over his duties of delivering chocolate eggs to children all over the world (with the exception of China!). But EB would prefer to be a drummer in a rock and roll band. A couple of weeks before Easter, he flees the Easter Bunny’s Willie Wonka-like chocolate egg making factory deep beneath the surface of Easter Island (where else?) and heads to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune. The only baggage he takes with him is “emotional.”

There he encounters Fred O’Hare (James Marsden), a 20something slacker. Fred has been kicked out of home by his father (Gary Cole), who is disappointed by his lack of ambition and drive. Fred is house sitting a mansion in the Hollywood Hills. He accidentally runs EB down and takes him in temporarily. A trio of Pink Berets (special forces rabbits) have been despatched to try and bring EB home. Meanwhile back on Easter Island, the Easter Bunny himself faces trouble from his second in command Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria with a Mexican accent). Dissatisfied at a perceived lack of respect for his position, Carlos starts a rebellion amongst the factory workers and tries to seize control.

The film draws a nice contrast between the two rebellious offspring who initially disappoint their fathers, but who eventually win their respect. Hop has novelty value, but its rather slim and inherently silly premise is padded out with some mildly diverting but uninspired and unnecessary subplots. Co-writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul also wrote The Santa Clause 2 and Despicable Me, and there are a few similarities here, particularly with the Easter Bunnies colourful, cute and comical minions.

The human performers, especially Gary Cole and Elizabeth Perkins, are given little to do and seem a little uncomfortable. In particular Marsden seems a little disconcerted having to act opposite a character that is only a blue screen special effect. Marsden also gets the brunt of the physical comedy and silly pratfalls as the man destined to become the first human Easter Bunny. Brand brings his own brand of energy and mischief to his role as the cute EB, but his normally over the top and manic presence seems restrained here. There’s also a brief appearance from David Hasselhoff, who seems more than willing to send up his own image, and Hugh Hefner.

Visually, the design of the Easter Bunny’s chocolate factory is spectacular and very colourful.

Hop is a saccharine family friendly film, and has fitting been released in time for Easter. Its themes and characters will certainly hit a chord with family audiences. Unlike much of today’s animated films though, Hop is aimed squarely at younger audiences, so there are few knowing pop cultural references or clever in-jokes to amuse adult audiences. Hop has a few surprisingly funny and enjoyable moments, but it is ultimately a fairly insubstantial film that fades from memory fairly quickly.




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